Cleveland High softball coach Angel Castillo is in his 10th season at the helm of the Storm, who were 21-1 in 2021, winning not only the 1-5A title but also the 5A state crown. His team’s 7-6 win over Mayfield on Feb. 26 was his 150th victory with the Storm. He was asked 10 questions by the Observer; here are his responses:

Highlights from 2021 season? Winning the district championship and the state championship.

Worst nightmare(s) of 2021 season? Having to wear masks at the end of May and into June; holding our breath for COVID cancellations and/or quarantines.

Top returning players for 2022? Senior Tavia Fragua, junior Ryen Herman, and sophomores Mercedes Lovato, Avi Fierro and Kayla Abeyta.

Varsity newcomers? Juniors Alex Pabouceck and Layla Dickson, and sophomores Lilly Pabouceck, Mya Pacheco, Alivia Hughes and Layla King.

Who’s the first girl at practice and the last girl to leave? There’s not really one individual, as part of our philosophy is that if you’re early, you’re on time and if you’re on time, you’re late.

The team you face that if you beat, you know it’ll be a good season? Season opener vs. Mayfield.

Who’s the front-runner or pre-season favorite in District 1-5A? This district is so competitive it’s ridiculous. Rio Rancho, Volcano Vista and Cibola each lost 2-3 seniors last year, so they return most of their varsity rosters.

For my team to get to the 5A state championship softball game, we’ll need to: dig deep and expect everyone’s best game. Ultimately we will have to be very stingy on the defensive side of the ball to have a chance.

What do you hear yourself saying to your players, year after year? “If you compete, play hard for the girl next to you, and do the best you can, we will always have a chance to win.”

What’s the most important skill you hope your players have? Being able to throw and catch at a pretty high level so that we can play really good defense is pretty important in our program.

Assistant coaches/roles: Rikki Castillo and Annette Castillo, varsity assistants; Stacy Salinas and Katie Ripple, junior varsity coaches.